Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Anderson Valley Alsace Festival This Weekend: Here Are the Organic Highlights

I'm looking forward to this weekend celebration of Alsace varietals this weekend in Boonville as the Anderson Valley Wine Association puts on its annual Alsace Festival, hosting an educational seminar and grand tasting on Saturday, followed by winery open houses on Sunday.

While the seminar and grand tasting are sold out events at this point, you can easily enjoy a day of tasting on Sunday at the individual wineries, a few of which feature organically grown wines.


Unfortunately the educational seminar is filled to capacity (as a press person I was lucky to secure a last minute cancellation) and the quality of the seminar looks to be quite high.

Glenn McGourty, U.C. Extension Farm Advisor  for Mendocino and Lake Counties, will be moderating the morning sessions. (He is also a leading expert on organic and Biodynamic farming, expertise both counties rely on since 25% of Mendocino county's vineyards are certified organic. Expect to see new research he's been conducting with U.C. Davis on organic farming costs in the near future.)

Pinot Noir expert  John Winthrop Haeger, who has a new book coming out, Riesling Rediscovered, will be moderating a panel of four stellar winemakers. Two of the four - Nicholas Quille of Pacific Rim (in Washington) and Chris Williams of Brooks Winery (in Oregon) - work with organic and Biodynamic grapes.

Sommelier extraordinaire Evan Goldstein will also lead a tasting of what the event organizers are calling the four Noble varietals: Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gew├╝rztraminer and Muscat).  Two leading sommeliers are featured on this panel.


The Grand Tasting is also sold out. Wines from many regions - including the Finger Lakes and Alsace - will be exhibiting.


One thing that's not sold out is the winery open houses on Sunday. 

Of these, several wineries have at least one wine from organic vines on the list.

For Alsatian wines, I'd suggest starting with these two wineries:

• By far the largest organic producer in Anderson Valley, and a benchmark winery there dating back to its early days, Handley Cellars makes a Pinot Gris and a Gew├╝rztraminer,  from organic grapes, as well as a Chardonnay and an estate Pinot,.You can also check out its Viognier, a novel Orange Muscat, and on occasion, a memorable and sought after sparkling wine.

• Panthea Cellars makes a Pinot Gris, as well as a Pinot Noir, from Filigreen Farms' Biodynamic grapes, which are grown on a beautiful farm in Anderson Valley. Filigreen Farms has been selling their grapes to a variety of vintners, from Paul Dolan Vineyards (two vintages of treasured Pinot Noir, now gone) and to Donkey & Goat in Berkeley.

Others in the area that make organically grown wines - from Bordeaux varietals - are:

• Yorkville Cellars produces 7+ organically grown wines from their own estate; specializes in Bordeaux varietals both in blends and bottled individually so you can find out what each actually tastes like on its own.
• Bink Wines makes a Sauvignon Blanc from Yorkville Cellars' organic vines (called Randle Hill).

Other area producers include:

• Donkey & Goat - these Berkeley based winemakers, who are members of the Anderson Valley vintners group, make a Pinot Gris from Filigreen Farms' Biodynamic grapes
• Drew Family - apple farmers as well as winemakers, they are the only producers in their tiny appellation who are organic and are just releasing their first vintages from these estate vines
• Long Meadow Ranch - a Napa winery, it's recently purchased a 60 acre vineyard in Boonville where its raising Pinot Noir, organically; its Napa estate vines are certified organic. 

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